John. John stop. You’re too adorable. Stop it.
So the story doesn’t end with Dave. This is the first chapter of Jon’s story in the same universe as Chill, it starts during chapter 6 of that fic. I think I’ve given enough info that reading Chill isn’t entirely necessary, but it would probably help?
Your name is John Egbert, and you’re happy. Really, really happy. What is there to be unhappy about? You survived the… your childhood. You have the most awesome friends in the entire world. You’re rooming with your best bro and it’s been going great. You think you finally know what you want to do with your life. And to top it all off, you think you might have found the greatest girl ever to share your life with. Everything is perfect.
Or well… it was. But now the girl of your dreams has told you that your best bro is in love with you, and instead of denying it, he kicked you out of your room. And it’s not right. That’s not the way this is supposed to go. You know what your life is supposed to be, and this isn’t it. You graduated high school with honors, you’re going to school with your friends. You’re going to graduate college now with a degree in meteorology, and maybe be a weather forecaster or something. Like Nic Cage in The Weather Man. You think that would be cool. And when you leave work you’ll go home to your suburban house and your loving wife and daughter. You’ll have dinner with your family and watch the next awesome Nic Cage movie and then maybe chat online with your best buds for a while before going to bed with your amazing wife and everything will be perfect forever.
And you think, maybe, if you just push through it and keep on smiling… maybe you can make it happen.
Right now, though, you’re not smiling. You’re pretty sure you’re crying, actually, and you don’t think you can handle facing anyone like this. When you grabbed your bag you thought you might head to Lisa’s place, hang out with her for a bit and wait for you and Dave both to settle down. Then, when you went back tomorrow, everything would just go back to normal. You’re not so sure that’s going to happen now. Dave seemed pretty upset… like, kind of angry actually, and you don’t really think you did anything wrong, but you’re not sure he’s going to forgive you anyway. So yeah, you’re going to need a little time to get your smile back.
Instead of heading straight for Lisa’s, you turn the other way and walk the path around the lake toward Picnic Point. The breeze coming in over the water is soothing, and you can’t do the windy thing anymore, but sometimes you think you can still draw the air in and wrap it around you like some ethereal hug. You sit on the shore and immerse yourself in the almost-embrace until the sun has nearly set. Then you shoulder your bag and turn around, heading back with a smile on your face. Everything is perfect. No one needs to know that there’s still a pain in your heart. Least of all you.
Things go back to normal. You and Egbert go almost everywhere together. When he asks for a night on his own, you
act like you have find something to do without him. You aren’t the only person in the world, and John’s a pretty friendly guy. It’s not the apocalypse worst thing that could happen. You won’t tell him, but you wish he wouldn’t tell you when it’s a date. It tends to send this sharp pain through your chest that is decidedly unironic, and you thought you’d rid yourself of that years ago.
When he drags you along with him to some inane lecture or takes you to some obscure, sleazy bar to see a local band he thinks you might like, though, you’re hard pressed not to grin like an idiot every time he looks at you. You’re still thankful he doesn’t wake up from your nightmares. And you’ve yet to have a panic attack or flashback or any of that shit you totally didn’t fight through during the summer, so you think you’re pretty solid. Even when he confesses that he’s decided to go into meteorology and won’t have any classes with you next semester. Egbert is a big boy, he doesn’t need to consult you on every
potentially life changing decision he makes.
>Dave: Get consulted
“I am afraid I must concede to being at a loss.”
“Well put that one down in the history books.”
“Yes, I am aware it is quite a momentous occasion.”
“Years from now, kids will be sitting in one of these shitty history classes going Rose Lalonde? At a loss? Blasphemy. Some little wizard somewhere just lost his magic. All your shut-in internet followers started crying and don’t know why.”
“Are you finished?”
“… Yeah, think I’m good.”
“Wonderful. I have been informed that the course schedule I originally intended to have next semester is… slightly faulty. It appears I inadvertently overlapped some of my classes.”
“Well shit, break out the time turner, Hermione.”
“That would be why I am here.”
“I’m just a tool to you, aren’t I? A watch that you don’t need to carry around. You call on me when you need something and then forget I exist. You do realize I can’t turn time back any more, don’t you?”
“Is this the part where I tell you you’re pretty?”
“Goddamn right I’m pretty. I’m the prettiest fucking princess this side of the Mason-Dixon line.”
“Just this side?”
“Bro won’t surrender his crown.”
“Shall I take that as an agreement to assist me in sorting out my schedule? I am afraid being a triple major is catching up to me.”
You end up scheduling two classes with her for the spring.
>Dave: Meet the slore
It’s three weeks from winter break that John introduces you to his girlfriend. Her demeanor reminds you of Spiderbitch. You don’t say this aloud because you don’t talk about the game anymore, but you do tell him you think she’s a manipulative slore and, to be completely unironic for once, he deserves a hell of a lot better. His smile gets strained for a moment and then he assures you that you just don’t know her well enough yet.
This seems to be his cue to bring her along on all of your outings. At the parties, it’s fine, but at the local band shows and anywhere else you can hear her when she opens her mouth, you can’t resist cutting her down. She’s clever enough she knows when you’re insulting her, but she doesn’t have the quick wit or eloquence to verbally fight back. Instead, she presses herself to John’s side and whispers in his ear, smirking like she thinks she’s got you beat. There’s no way John would choose her over you at this point.
Until the day comes.
“Uh… haha, sorry. This is hard, and kinda awkward. So, I think we’re going to have to cut our bro-time a bit.” You don’t say anything, and he squirms a little, but he doesn’t stop smiling. For once, you think it might annoy you. “Uh, Dave?”
“Yeah, I get it. Hoes before bros. Pails before ‘rails. I’m picking up what you’re laying down. Your sweetheart has a thorn in her ass with my name on it and she can’t seem to get it out herself so she’s having you do it for her.”
“Dave it’s not… It’s just, Lisa would be more comfortable if the time I spend with her wasn’t also the time I spend with you. She said… she says it feels like I’m cheating on her to her face because…”
“Because no one can resist such prolonged exposure to the Strider charm? Can’t blame you there, dude.”
“No, it’s just… well, she thinks you’re in love with me.” Your brain stops dead. You’ve avoided analyzing your feelings, so you honestly don’t know what they are or how to respond. “Dave? You’re… you’re not, right?”
“Oh…” he mumbles, and he can’t look you in the eye. “I… listen, Dave. I… damnit, I can’t do this Dave. I can’t deal with it. Things… things weren’t supposed to go this way.” Through the sludge your mind seems to have become, you vaguely note that he’s not smiling anymore. He is, in fact, crying. “I… you know me, Dave. I can’t… I can’t like you like that. That’s not how my life plays out. I think… I think maybe it’d be best if we… didn’t hang out for a while. Just kind of… spent some time apart?” He pauses a moment and then steps back to grab some of his things. No. Nonononono. John can’t leave you. You can’t do that again.
“Your new puppeteer says ‘jump’ and you go sky-diving? Two months of indentured servitude is enough to break up a bromance of 6 years? How are you denser than a black hole? You’re still that 13 year old kid jumping on the first treasure map some creeper hands you.”
“Fuck, I can’t believe you’re still siding with Spiderbitch over me.” Fuuuuuuuuck. That was definitely not cool. You can’t salvage this one, fuckass. You seem to be getting yourself into a lot of these situations lately.
John’s silent and staring at you with this odd expression. Confusion, maybe; horror, possibly; concern, definitely. And you don’t need it. You don’t fucking need his concern, because there is nothing wrong with you.
“D… Dave? What-”
“Egbert. Shut the fuck up and exit stage left.”
“Yeah, sometime around now would be great.” He opens his mouth one more time, but you’re pretty sure your glare is getting to him, even if he can’t see your eyes. He always was good at reading your expressions. You just hope he leaves before the stinging in your eyes turns out to be more than a dust mote.
He casts you one last look and then absconds.
>Dave: Be a train wreck
The next few weeks are an unwanted flashback to summer. You lose time. One moment it’s 7 in the morning and the next it’s 9 at night and Egbert’s awkwardly shaking you with this concerned look, asking if you’d moved and why you’re suddenly skipping classes and he’s sorry if it’s because of him but blah, blah, blah. You brush it off. These days you’re sure to only take off your shades when you’re alone. The dark circles around your eyes are such a dark purple they’re nearing on black. You don’t know how many classes you miss, how many assignments you haven’t gotten, how many meals you’ve neglected to ingest. You don’t know the last time you slept for more than an hour. And no matter how much you want to just deny everything is happening, you know you’re not going to be able to keep this up long without some serious repercussions.
Despite this knowledge, you can’t really bring yourself to care.
Chapter warning: graphic depiction of death
>Dave: Leave the nest
The ride to the airport, like the rest of the week before it, is uncomfortably silent. You didn’t apologize, because you know Bro wouldn’t accept it, and you don’t try to explain, because as long as you refuse to admit there is a problem, it doesn’t exist. You know Rose would have something to say about that, but you are definitely not consulting her. You’re chill. It’s not like you and Bro have ever been chatty Kathies with each other. That’s more the Egbert shtick. Even if Bro had started avoiding you and stopped leaving notes, you weren’t going to cry about it like some overdependent teenage girl whose lame-ass sparkly boyfriend won’t call her back.
He ruffles your hair, though, as he sees you off, and you can practically hear an “I’m proud of you, son” in the gesture, true DadEgbert-style. It’s an acceptance of the apology you couldn’t give, and you offer him a fist bump to show you got the message and convey everything you know other people would just say. “I’m sorry. Thanks. I’ll miss you… I love you.” And maybe it’s not ironic to not tell someone something they already know, but you think maybe the irony is in that you don’t always know these things.
You land in O’Hare airport in Chicago to find the three stooges waiting for you, and your summer issues melt to the background. This is your family before you, and they are alive. Visibly alive. And you’re not going to lose them again. No one is going to take them from you. You all pile on the bus and settle in for the three hour drive to your college.
>Dave: Settle in
One month later, things are going smoother than a baby’s ass. You and Egbert are better roommates than even Miss I-see-all Lalonde could have predicted. You haven’t decided on a major yet, but you and John both decided to get some of your generals out of the way and planned matching schedules accordingly. The only differences lying in the English course you share with blondie and the calculus course he has with Jade. You haven’t had any attacks, blackouts, etc. and even the nightmares have eased.
You’re taking in the college life, complete with frat parties that you and Egbert both attend. Kid’s more popular than you expected with how geeky he is. You suppose it’s sufficiently ironic. You approve. Sometimes you attend as a guest, others as the DJ, but you generally leave stone cold sober. You don’t need to wake up in another town next week, and no one needs to see you like that.
John Egbert is always happy. Always. Like Jade’s do— like Lalonde’s cat with a yarn ball. Like everything in the world is peachy-keen, hunkydory. Hello world, I’m shining so bright, a new day’s here, it’s really dynamite happy. And you think you’re pretty okay with that… even if he wakes you up at ungodly inhuman fucking disgusting hours of the morning with that suicide homicidal rage inducing Folger’s commercial. (You think maybe you know how Makara felt over the ICP thing now, but you’re not thinking about that.)It’s hard not to enjoy these times when you’re surrounded by that kind of eternal optimism.
>Dave: Deal with meddling ecto-sister
“Don’t you think you’re possibly relying on John a little too much?”
“Fuck off, Lalonde.”
“Very mature, Strider.”
“I’m the fucking epitome of maturity. If I was any more mature, I’d be decaying.”
“Ah, I see. Too mature. That must be the issue. Many apologies for offending your obviously overripe sensibilities.”
“Obviously you’re a little too aged yourself or you would have heard me the first time. Fuck. Off.”
“Very well. Just…”
“I’m here, you know. If and when he disappoints you. You can come to me.”
“Yes, yes. ‘Fucking off.’”
The first time John goes somewhere and doesn’t invite you along, you’re thrown for a loop. You don’t splutter or anything stupid like that, you just sort of stare at him for a minute, and he gives you this apologetic look, like he feels sorry for you. Like he knows thinks you’ll be lost without him towing you around. It’s ridiculous.
>Dave: Nod off.
You’ve gotten complacent. Whatever would Bro say? (Probably nothing, he’d just beat your ass strifing ‘til you got the message.) You’re entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for you when you fall asleep.
It starts, as it so often does, with a splash of red and the smell of blood. You watch as your insides decide they don’t want to be inside anymore and escape through the gash in your abdomen. You fall forward, but you don’t hit the ground. Instead, you’re in a giant pot, red crocodiles nakking around you, and you can feel the boiling water scalding your skin. You try to get out, but the metal of the cauldron is too hot to touch, and when you reach out too far one of the reptiles sinks his knife-like teeth into your arm… except those aren’t teeth, they’re the spikes you’ve been impaled on.
One after another, the deaths cut you to pieces and peel off your skin, burning you to a crisp. You half expect to be served to the horrorterrors on a silver platter. But you’re not. That never happens, because it never happened. You stumble through and each death becomes clearer, more painful, more real as you go from the ones that would have happened given extenuating circumstances to the ones that you almost died yourself. You, instead of every dead you you had ever had to sidestep. And then come the worst, the impact of the bullets sends you tumbling backward, and there you are, drifting before the bomb that will create the Green Sun, staring into the eyes of your sister, knowing you’re going to watch her die.
Your world explodes in a wave of emerald, and you can’t look away as her flesh and muscle and organs are burned from the bone, which soon crumble to ash and disappear.
You wake up sobbing to an empty room.
Song: Pink - F**kin’ Perfect
Had a productive phase a couple weeks ago and decided to start this for Luka’s Brainbent. Of course, it was a struggle to finish it after the phase had passed, but with Thanksgiving, and then people giving Luka hassle, I really wanted to do it.
So here it is. Thank you, Luka, for this amazing AU that so many people have now turned to for help. I, for one, think you’re doing awesome.